August 2012 Bar Bulletin
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August 2012 Bar Bulletin

Bike Law: Takin' It to the Streets

By Gene Barton and Bob Anderton

 

With the sun shining and bicyclists on the road and in the news, the Bar Bulletin sat down with bike lawyer - and former Bar Bulletin editor - Bob Anderton to discuss recent events and emerging issues.

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Q: A San Francisco bicyclist was recently charged with manslaughter after he ran a red light and stuck a pedestrian in a crosswalk who later died. Should bicyclists who kill pedestrians be prosecuted?

A: Of course. Especially that bicyclist, whom police say was riding as fast as 35 miles an hour and then allegedly posted online that he was "too committed" to stop at the light. But this example is an anomaly - bicyclists are more often on the receiving end of accidental deaths. There were three pedestrian deaths in a seven-block radius of that crash in less than a year.1 The other deaths were not newsworthy because they are all too common. Countrywide statistics show that, during the period in which 63 pedestrians were killed by bicyclists, about 5,000 bicyclists and 60,000 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles.2

Perhaps more representative than the bicyclist killing a pedestrian story is the recent charge against a San Francisco attorney for hit-and-run and vehicular manslaughter after he allegedly struck and killed a bicyclist in his new Mercedes-Benz CLS550. Video shows that the Mercedes never stopped after the crash. The car was found in the lawyer's garage with "extensive windshield and front-end damage" and was missing the same parts found at the scene of the crash.3 When confronted, police say the lawyer "spontaneously stated" he was involved in an automobile accident. I think that we can all agree that he should be prosecuted and, if convicted, probably be disbarred as well.

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Q: Well, let's stick with the bicyclists versus pedestrian issue. Even if pedestrians aren't regularly being killed by bicyclists, they are certainly at risk from them. Shouldn't the laws protecting pedestrians be strengthened?

A: The law in Seattle is already clear that bicyclists in a crosswalk "shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances, but shall yield to pedestrians upon and along a crosswalk."4 Also, while bicyclists can legally ride on sidewalks in Seattle, they must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians, and are supposed to give "an audible signal before overtaking and passing any pedestrian."5


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